BSA & M Co. Mark IV Infantry Rifles


In April of 2004, I read a post on the Martini-Henry Forum from a fellow named John who claimed to have a Martini-Henry Mark IV Infantry Rifle with a BSA & M Co. maker's code, and an 1895 manufacture date. I was a bit surprised by this, having believed that all Mark IV's were made exclusively by RSAF Enfield (as is stated in several printed works on the Martini-Henry). Turns out, his rifle was not a Khyber Pass Special, but is indeed a genuine British-made example. A few correspondences with Ian Skennerton on the matter made things pretty clear...


Hi again,
Looking more closely at the marking... the date... '95' is per individual stamps, marked later. We've observed this on other Martinis as well, turn of the century. H.R.B. & B.E. Co. are prime examples with some of their .303 carbines, mostly Metfords. Note the '9' and '5' don't align perfectly. Also, new made as a Mk IV body, under the steel batch proof (crown with arrow incorporated), there should be a 'I' to indicate a 1st class arm. It isn't there as some have been faced off, presumably by Kirkee.
So what do we ascertain?
BSA must have manufactured some unfinished rifle bodies in 18?? (Probably about 1890) and these ended up with other long lever spares, in India. I assume the '95' was stamped in Kirkee Arsenal. Note the style of the numbers, sans serif. The '1' and '8' and '9' are serif types, the '5' is later sans serif type, like the KK marks in 11.08. Also the stop after '5'. Not typical.
So I assume the rifle has been assembled from spares, using a BSA mfg. spare action body, in November 1908. Interesting however that BSA did a War Office contract of Mk IV bodies after RSAF had turned over their machinery. Maybe BSA had the original dies from Enfield, as they cleared everything out for the new magazine rifle production in 1888.


Hi again Jason,
I knew we had something about BSA somewhere but I've done so many books with
such a variety of information, sometimes I think that I dreamt about it!
Go to the Martini bible, pge. 510 (Vol. III on the markings) for the BSA
order for India, for action bodies only. We have seen 2 or 3 such BSA Mk IV
rifles and pulled them apart (just spoken with Barry Temple who reminded me)
and all the parts are marked with Enfield inspection stamps, but the bodies
are BSA, so they must be from the Indian refurbished batch with new BSA
bodies, done in India.
Sorry for the runaround... maybe I am becoming forgetful in my old age? Or
there is too much stored away to index quickly.
Cheers, Ian

Hi Jason,
Just going through old paperwork and saw your e-mail of 26th last regarding
the M.H. Mk IV with Kirkee Arsenal marks. I replied on that one, but notice
your comment 'RSAF was the only maker of Mk IVs'.
1. I recall seeing a nice condition Mk IV long lever (although from memory
it may only have had a short lever fitted as original) in South Australia
over 25 years ago, made by the National Arms & Ammunition Company. The logo
comprised of a circular belt with the National Arms & Ammunition Company
inscribed within the belt that was almost as large as the right face of the
receiver. Have never seen another since.
2. BSA Co. Mk IV, I agree that I've never seen another maker (apart from
NA&A Co.) apart from Enfield, but the late date makes it more credible as it
could have been a replacement. Using old Enfield machinery is a possibility,
maybe a late order came in to the War Office or Enfield and it was passed on
to BSA. Tasmania ordered new M.-H. Mk III rifles after 1900 as they still
had lots of ammo on hand.


"On 8/2/1894, the BSA Co was given an order by the WO for the supply of spare parts for M-H arms to India, and the parts ordered included action bodies as follows...

Artillery Carbine - 1316
Rifle Mark II - 2310
Rifle Mark III - 326
Rifle Mark IV - 1237

They were for use in conjunction with the other parts of damaged or salvaged weapons to rebuild arms of the various patterns mentioned. The bodies were marked with the BSA factory code, and the year 1895, so on casual examination, the rebuilt arms would appear to have been made by that company at that time, but although the BSA Co had made one small batch of M-H AC.I for the Indian Government in 1893, they had ceased production of R.II and III by June, 1890, and had never made R.IV at all, so the arms mentioned could not possibly have been made by the company in that year."

So, the assumption is that this rifle was assembled at the Kirkee Arsenal in India in November of 1908. It is unclear whether the damaged action body of an existing rifle was replaced with this newly made BSA action body, or whether the entire rifle was newly constructed from spare parts and the new BSA action bodies. It is assumed that all of these action bodies were used to first repair unserviceable Mark IV's, and in all likelihood, the remaining bodies were used to construct new rifles from spare parts. It will probably never be known which rifles were repaired, and which were newly assembled with these action bodies.

Here are some detailed pictures of John's BSA Mark IV.

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